Two veteran North Carolina lawmakers in recent weeks have announced their decision to not run for re-election in 2010. Rep. Melanie Wade Goodwin, a three-term Democratic House member from Richmond County, announced on Sep. 8 that she would not seek a fourth term. And Rep. Jim Gulley, a seventh-term Mecklenburg County Republican, said on September 15 that this term will be his last.
Their announcements come less than eight months away from the 2010 primary elections and slightly more than a year away from the 2010 general election. Keeping in mind that redistricting occurs in 2011 after the U.S. Census is released, taking a look at the two seats now can give us an idea of any potential shift in the General Assembly’s majority.
The Goodwin seat, House District 66, consists of all of Richmond and most of Montgomery counties. The district is rated by the Civitas NCPI as a D+8 district, meaning that the average Democratic candidate begins with an eight point advantage. However, Republican Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) actually edged out Obama 49.7 percent to 49.2 percent. Former Republican President George W. Bush defeated Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in the same district, 50.3 percent to 49.4 percent.
Despite the GOP’s success at the presidential level, it has failed to translate to other statewide contests. US Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) beat former US Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) by almost 19 percent in District 66.The lowest percentage any statewide Democratic Council of State candidate received was 53.9 percent of the vote.
Goodwin faced little contention during the two elections she ran for the House. She ran unopposed in 2008 and had token opposition in 2006. Her opponent only spent $136 during the 2006 campaign. Therefore the chances of a turnover of this seat from Democratic to Republican appear unlikely.
The Gulley seat, House District 103, is much more interesting. Traditionally, it has been thought of as a safe Republican seat, but it saw large Democratic gains in 2008. After the 2004 elections, the Civitas NCPI had this district rated an R+8, but when the NCPI was recalculated after the 2008 elections, it had moved five points towards the Democrats and is now rated as an R+3 district. In fact, the five point shift was the largest change in the NCPI for any district held by a Republican towards the Democrats. Thus, this district could be much more in play than previously thought.
In fact, Obama actually won the district, 51.4 percent to McCain’s 47.8 percent, but, conversely Hagan underperformed in the district compared to her statewide percentage. Looking at other statewide races for governor and Council of State, despite being bolstered by two home county candidates (Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory and Robert Pittenger), Republicans and Democrats split the ten races 5 to 5. Republican candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Commissioners of Agriculture, Insurance and Labor all carried the district. The remaining races, Attorney General, Auditor, Superintendent, Secretary of State and Treasurer all went Democratic.
A number of factors will surely come into play in this district, not least of which is the ability of either party to recruit a top tier candidate. Also it will be surprising if Democrats can match their spectacular turnout effort from 2008 in Mecklenburg County again in 2010. As of now, this seat should be classified as a leans Republican district, but will definitely be one to keep an eye on over the next few months.